Another familiar face with us in the monster trenches today. Clive Barker won me over with Rawhead Rex, and now he tempts us with another oddly named villain, a demon named the Yattering. A fury whose responsibility is to drive people mad, but has the Yattering met his match in seemingly boring Jack Polo? Let’s find out, in The Yattering and Jack. But oh wait, this is another story by Clive Barker, so shouldn’t this technically be Monsterology 302? You want semantics or you want a review?
That’s what I thought.
Once again Barker shows us the strength of a clear narrative. The novel opens through the viewpoint of the Yattering and then subtly shifts about halfway through to Jack Polo. After that they share screen time with each other and transition back and forth. It’s not as jawing as the transition between Rawhead Rex and his victims, although I did love that approach. Barker does the same thing here, although the hectic hopping isn’t done until the story’s climax. It was well done, but I felt like I would have been just as happy if the story had been told entirely through the Yattering’s POV. Maybe more as it would be a bit of a twist that Jack has been fooling him the whole time. But that desire probably just stems from watching lots of Tales from the Crypt as a kid.
The setting stays entirely in the home of Jack Polo, and never ventures further than his backyard. While Barker never goes out of his way to describe the home in excruciating detail, the boring Jack makes you picture a boring home. The scenes come to life though is when the Yattering strikes over Christmas break. A turkey breaks out of the oven and dances, and the Christmas tree spins like a whirling top, snapping the lights and filling the air with the smell of burnt fuses as more inanimate objects enter the fray. Rawhead Rex was confined to a small town, but the Yattering strikes in an even smaller and intimate setting.
I loved both of the characters in the book. There were times when I found myself rooting for the Yattering, even when he was drowning or blowing up cats. He kind of reminded me of the mortal equivalent of a disgruntled office worker; he’s assigned something that should be an easy sale, but for some reason he just can’t close the account. Likewise, Jack was entertaining in his ho-hum reactions to the chaos in his life. It was refreshing to learn that he does care about his family, and his façade almost breaks when the Yattering starts messing with his daughters. Yet Jack presses on, recounting the lessons that you can learn from watching Spock and McCoy on Star Trek. If you really want to piss someone off, remain calm while they’re mad.
Which brings me to the theme of the novel, and I do believe there is one, and it’s Jack’s repeating phrase and the one that closes the story. Que sera sera. What will be will be, so there’s no point in sweating the small stuff. Granted, a demon invading your home is not what most would consider small, but then Jack doesn’t consider him a small threat either. If he did he wouldn’t have gone so deep undercover for so long. When events are beyond your control though, such as the final destination of your soul after taming a demon, well, no point in worrying about them. In a way I suppose this could also be interpreted as you have to live your life the way you think is right, and don’t dwell on the consequences. And if nothing else, this story is a pretty good manual on how to handle internet trolls.
So once again Clive Barker has impressed me with his writing, and once again, I feel the need to give him 5 Stars. I’ve also added several of his works to my Want to Read list. Coming into this class I was looking for research into my thesis, and I think I got that. Now it looks like it also gave me a new favorite horror writer.